SURE IT'S EARLY, BUT . . .

Robin Brownlee
October 05 2013 11:55PM

History tells us two games does not a season make, so those writing off the Edmonton Oilers after Saturday's 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks are jumping the gun, even if that's understandable with patience waning after seven years out of the playoffs.

So, no, the fate of the Oilers isn't cast in stone after a 5-4 defeat against the Winnipeg Jets on opening night and the loss to the Canucks. That said, I'm more alarmed at how the Oilers lost in Vancouver rather than that they lost.

While the absence of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner leaves the Oilers with a gaping hole down the middle, one that Taylor Hall has struggled mightily to fill so far, that doesn't explain why the Oilers were outworked, outhustled and outclassed so badly by the Canucks.

Since the moment new head coach Dallas Eakins arrived, his mantra has been about competing, about accountability and about new beginnings – he's gone as far as to remodel the dressing room to emphasize the importance of looking ahead rather than back, of this team molding its own identity.

How much of that – the willingness to compete and outwork an opponent – did we see against the Canucks? Not nearly enough. Not even close. That, two games into the tenure of Eakins, is a problem.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD

I get it that facing the Canucks without Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner left the Oilers outmanned. I get it that it's going to take time for new linemates and defensive pairings to get used to each other. It's going to take time for the team, as a whole, to get a grasp of new systems and settle in together.

What I don't is the almost-total lack of "compete" the Oilers showed at every turn against the Canucks in a game in which they were outshot 44-23 and weren't close to contesting enough loose pucks and open ice. There is nothing to mitigate the lack of gumption and gusto we saw.

What we got instead are some all-too-familiar post-game regrets. Tell me is any of the following sounds familiar. If you heard the same lament under Ralph Krueger or Tom Renney or Pat Quinn or . . .

"If you're not going to compete like every shift is your last, you're not going to win. That was very evident tonight," Eakins said, via the Oilers Twitter feed after the game.

"We can't play like that," said defensemen Ladislav Smid. "We have to draw the line. If we want to make the playoffs, we have to wake up and win some games."

"We got out-played right from the start of the game," said Hall, who was minus-4. "There are a lot of things we need to improve on from that effort." Added Hall: "We have to wake up tomorrow positive and regroup. All it takes is one shift, one period next game to get back on track."

RESULTS, PLEASE

"We lost a lot of battles tonight," said Hall, who could well end up back on left wing against New Jersey when Nugent-Hopkins returns to the line-up. "That's nothing to do with systems."

I applaud Eakins for much of what he's said and how he's approached this season. He's stripped away the handy excuse of the Oilers being a young team. He is insisting on results. He expects his players, be they raw rookies or budding stars, to give him everything they've got. To compete.

After a good measure of all the above in the game against the Jets, a loss that sits squarely on the shoulders of goaltender Devan Dubnyk, we saw precious little of it against the Canucks. Systems take time. Chemistry takes time. Effort and willingness to battle should not. You either have it or you don't.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Cold Hard Truth
October 06 2013, 12:06AM
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Well put Robin.

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#2 **
October 06 2013, 12:12AM
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*sigh*. All these discussion after an Oilers loss feel like being in an assembly line pound the hammer over and over and over again for the last few years. At least the media and the bloggers get paid to do so but as a fan I am starting to feel bored and getting headaches. I feel sorry for all those who bought tickets for the home games and almost sold out the season. At least I only waste a bit of electricity on the tv and the computer. It is still disappointing though.

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#3 Fresh Mess
October 06 2013, 12:17AM
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You hit the nail on the head. The lack of accountability has trickled down from the top( the second winning-est man in hockey, the Lord of the Six Rings) and festered into a losing culture in the dressing room.

It's the lack of progress in competitiveness that is astounding. Still the easiest team in the NHL to play against at this point.

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#4 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
October 06 2013, 12:35AM
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They need a goalie who can pull their collective asses from the fire and sadly Dubnyk is not that guy. I know it is a big ask however.

Get hall back on the wing regardless of the return of the nuge. Officially the 3rd best left winger in the league should play leftwing.

It is almost like MacT has done nothing different than Tambo except be Lowes buddy.

Just sayin'

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#5 Serious Gord
October 06 2013, 12:38AM
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My thoughts exactly robin.

And that's what is so frustrating - weak D, suspect G, adrift at C and the rookie coach got schooled by the veteran.

Yet the one element fans were told that, despite these serial (3 yrs and counting) weaknesses not being addressed by management - that the new wunderkind coach - the one worth summarily dismissing the last wunderkind coach for - would deliver was a team that would show up to play and give it their 110% each and every night.

And we got excrement instead. In only the second game -'with a couple days rest. NO EXCUSES.

Same as it ever was.

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#6 Mychew
October 06 2013, 12:44AM
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We could trade for the whole Boston team and still suck

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#7 The Oilers Shot Clock
October 06 2013, 12:45AM
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The idea of a sumo wrestler in net was never properly tested.

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#8 Eddie Shore
October 06 2013, 12:47AM
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The sky is falling!

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#9 The Oilers Shot Clock
October 06 2013, 12:48AM
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@Serious Gord

When the first doughnut gets tossed onto the ice in coming days, I hope you have an alibi.

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#10 **
October 06 2013, 12:56AM
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Mychew wrote:

We could trade for the whole Boston team and still suck

You just won the internet.

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#11 Sidney Frosby
October 06 2013, 01:04AM
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** wrote:

You just won the internet.

Apparently you can have a down year and still sign a 6 mill a year contract in Edmonton.

Accountability anyone?

our stars make more than Patrice Bergeron without producing Patrice Bergeron playoff series winning goals.....

Makes sense

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#12 Nina Russo
October 06 2013, 01:06AM
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reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan) wrote:

They need a goalie who can pull their collective asses from the fire and sadly Dubnyk is not that guy. I know it is a big ask however.

Get hall back on the wing regardless of the return of the nuge. Officially the 3rd best left winger in the league should play leftwing.

It is almost like MacT has done nothing different than Tambo except be Lowes buddy.

Just sayin'

Like he won't turn the puck over or make a bad decision on the wing? Why should the centres have to cover his ego? How about Eakins teaches him not to turn the puck over and to play defence, otherwise he can join Omark in OKC.

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#13 719
October 06 2013, 01:26AM
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Nail hit on head!

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#14 Time Travelling Sean
October 06 2013, 01:30AM
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Maybe it's the CBC? I want Sportsnet West already.

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#15 MessyEH!
October 06 2013, 02:24AM
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I have reviewed the game footage. Crunched the advanced stats. Calculated the applications of reduced player long range, volcanic disc failure rate. And I have come to one conclusive equation. Advanced stat gurus please keep up!

DD=WTF

That is all.

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#16 MessyEH!
October 06 2013, 02:44AM
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719 wrote:

Nail hit on head!

If he has a concussion. I am done with the #s seven , one and nine. You Sir, have just caused me great anxiety!

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#17 spliff
October 06 2013, 03:00AM
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Even if we perpetually suck, and are always mediocre, at least we can beat the Flames. I am so sick of losing to the Flames year after year. But now the Flames are rebuilding, and we are in year 4 or 5 of our rebuild, so now its our turn to kick their ass for a few years right? Wrong! I guarantee they will beat us. They will outwork and out hit us, and they will win. I really thought this year would be different. Tonight made in crystal clear how sh*te we are. Are KLoser and MacT on mushrooms? Are they so overconfident that they actually believe that they are capable of improving this farce? They are amateurs. Oh yeah, almost forgot the Flames hired an actual hockey-mind (Burke) and in a few years they will be seriously kicking our ass. Great.

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#18 David S
October 06 2013, 03:07AM
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To be fair, the Oilers are a mess without their #1 and #2 C's. The team is sugar coating it for the fans and we're all making up fantasy lines that "would work if only Eakins would use them". Actually, being honest we're screwed.

In reality we're probably a couple of AHL'ers too many and there's really no way to make up for missing key members of your roster. Against Vancouver we played a motivated, veteran team who pretty much have their sh!t together. They may not be the best in the league but they're competent and pretty damn good when they want to be.

Until Gagner and RNH come back and are up to full speed, no amount of positive thinking will hide the fact we're at an extreme disadvantage. In the meantime we get the likes of Arcobello and Smyth playing far over their real world capabilities and Taylor Hall playing at 30% like a fish out of water. And there's nothing Eakins, MacT or any fan can do about it.

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#19 spliff
October 06 2013, 03:24AM
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If Mr.Katz wants to get some value for all the money he is spending on this sh*tshow, he should ask the Ottawa Senators if Kevin and Criag and the gang could do a job-alike with the Sens management to pick up a few pointers on how to run a franchise. Katz can give 20 000 000$ to the Sens for a two week workshop. Problem is, Bucky and Steve will probably forget their notebooks, and Kevin will keep interrupting class by talking about his glory days.

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#20 hockeycrazed
October 06 2013, 05:56AM
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Come on now, don't panic, all we need is going back to basics; Apply the 'KISS' principle: Everybody finishing checks, simple passes out of their own zone, none of those small nifty passes, can't fool any team any more with it, all they got to do is looking at tapes and realize that that's Oil's only trick to start their attacks, and pounce on them. Get a legitimate goalie doesn't hurt, of course! It's not easy, but necessary!!!

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#21 TayLordBalls
October 06 2013, 06:25AM
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what I saw last night from the Oil, was a physically tired team.

That coach was responsible for that loss for spending the teams energy on practice rather than game time.

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#22 Hammers
October 06 2013, 07:09AM
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Robin i agree with most of what you say but maybe the problem is we over value the players we have , the coaches & management. Is Eakins swarm system working ? Don't see it . Did McT bring in the right players ? Some for sure . Gordon , Perron & Ference . Did he clean house ? Resounding YES . The old saying of looking at your players and deciding the best way to use them is true in any era But use them to there best attributes . Can you get over loosing 2 games . Hell Yea . I figured if lucky we would have 10 points from our first 12-14 games . That is still possible but they need 2 wins before going on the road .

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#23 Serious Gord
October 06 2013, 07:56AM
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Hammers wrote:

Robin i agree with most of what you say but maybe the problem is we over value the players we have , the coaches & management. Is Eakins swarm system working ? Don't see it . Did McT bring in the right players ? Some for sure . Gordon , Perron & Ference . Did he clean house ? Resounding YES . The old saying of looking at your players and deciding the best way to use them is true in any era But use them to there best attributes . Can you get over loosing 2 games . Hell Yea . I figured if lucky we would have 10 points from our first 12-14 games . That is still possible but they need 2 wins before going on the road .

MacT most certainly DID NOT clean house. Bucky and smith are still there. As are hemsky, Smyth. As for getting the players we need - gagner is redundant and should have been traded to fill the needs we have; hemsky should have been bought out to free cap space (Scrooge mckatz wouldn't allow it perhaps?)

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#24 Serious Gord
October 06 2013, 08:02AM
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The Oilers Shot Clock wrote:

When the first doughnut gets tossed onto the ice in coming days, I hope you have an alibi.

Defending someone's failure - as many posters on this site chronically do -makes you an enabler.

Cubs fans are enablers; Yankee and Red Sox fans are not and have years of winning records as a reward.

Are oilers fans in the cubs mould or the Yankees? I think by and large they are the former, but they may be reaching a breaking point (god I hope so...)

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#25 oilabroad
October 06 2013, 08:02AM
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If Edm has a system, I dont know what it is and I am not sure the players do either. It seems to me that all these coaches the Oil have brought in over the past few years had one thing in common, none of them were good hockey players. Their systems were all designed to stifle the other teams talent instead of being designed to work with the talent that we actually have. These kids have a natural instinct for the game that made them the best players in the world at their given age, so what say we start working around that instead of trying to force them into a system that contradicts every natural inclination for the game they already have. I would sooner watch 7-6 river hockey than the big mess he is putting on the ice right now...

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#26 Rod from Viking
October 06 2013, 08:05AM
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Robin the effort and compete was there in full force until the extremely weak goal by Richardson,a 6'5" goaltender sliding across the crease with his legs underneath him,five hole open and stick no where near the ice killed the teams confidence again, make that save and Oilers could have scored on that powerplay and been up 2-0. You can talk all the stats you want Dubynk does not have the mental toughness to be a #1 goaltender and probably never will.

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#27 Spydyr
October 06 2013, 08:06AM
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Hey, at least the Eskimos won. Oh wait. Why do Edmonton sport teams keep hiring alumni instead of the best candidate available?

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#28 Reinman
October 06 2013, 08:10AM
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I see JJ got injured.

Does Omark get another shot now? They need a decent scoring winger.

Perron-Arcobello-Ebs Hall-RNH-Hemsky Omark-Gordon-Yak Smyth-Acton-Brown

Although, I guess Hamilton will be inserted. I wonder if he will perform any better then Omark has.

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#29 Roadhouse
October 06 2013, 08:11AM
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I'm at the point in thinking Ilya Bryzgalov would be a good pickup.

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#30 madjam
October 06 2013, 08:20AM
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A system is only as good as the players employing it and that's a bad sign with the club we have at present . To that end our young core neither has the size , grit or toughness to be overly successful at it . This is the NHL , where center is not our fortay with Hopkins and Gagner even healthy . Defence still has difficulty with most teams forechecking them and entire team . We still cannot handle that type of assault from other teams and unlikely we ever will with this lineup . Nurse is even an upgrade even at this stage , because he can handle that type of pressure better than most of our defence already . Goaltending is also weak and that does not look like it will improve much if any with present goalkeepers . Size is our enemy when it comes to young core -togh to continually ignor it .

You know , that's 3 strikes against this club , which normally means your out ! Does not help when new coach relies on old AHL talent he knows because he is still unfamiliar with rest of club . After all , this is the NHL , not Ahl or KHL . How many more years do we endure before we shore up back end , goalie and center to NHL standards so we can compete on a level surface with the other contenders ??

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#31 Old School G
October 06 2013, 08:21AM
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In Dubnyk do we have nothing more than a top tier backup goaltender?

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#32 Reagan
October 06 2013, 08:22AM
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Pinned the trail on the donkey!

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#33 Spydyr
October 06 2013, 08:29AM
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Old School G wrote:

In Dubnyk do we have nothing more than a top tier backup goaltender?

Yes, His whole career so far but lots of people's eyes are just opening up now. Mac-T and some of us here saw it.

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#34 Ricardodw
October 06 2013, 08:31AM
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Hammers wrote:

Robin i agree with most of what you say but maybe the problem is we over value the players we have , the coaches & management. Is Eakins swarm system working ? Don't see it . Did McT bring in the right players ? Some for sure . Gordon , Perron & Ference . Did he clean house ? Resounding YES . The old saying of looking at your players and deciding the best way to use them is true in any era But use them to there best attributes . Can you get over loosing 2 games . Hell Yea . I figured if lucky we would have 10 points from our first 12-14 games . That is still possible but they need 2 wins before going on the road .

I did not see the game but see that Joensuu only had 6:33 in ice time.

He was by far the best Oiler forward (and best new addition including Perron, Ference and Gordon) in the loss to the Jets.

Did he get hurt?

If he is hurt that should be headline news.

The Oilers need 4 more Forwards like Joensuu to play with Eberle and Hall and RNH.

Perron tries hard but when he was manhandled by Byfuglen that basically ended his game. In St.L he would have have 4-5 guys standing up for him... in Edmonton he basically is on his own.

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#35 Old School G
October 06 2013, 08:44AM
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@Spydyr

I like Dubby, but he is what he is. All backup goalies are great goalies some nights but have at least one flaw keeping them from being a starter. Dubby has major lapses in focus during a game; he is not capable of consistently holding his concentration on the game for the required 60+ minutes, there's his one flaw.

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#36 Spydyr
October 06 2013, 09:08AM
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Old School G wrote:

I like Dubby, but he is what he is. All backup goalies are great goalies some nights but have at least one flaw keeping them from being a starter. Dubby has major lapses in focus during a game; he is not capable of consistently holding his concentration on the game for the required 60+ minutes, there's his one flaw.

One flaw, Sorry no. His angles are bad he is down before the shot. He has a few flaws.

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#37 The Soup Fascist
October 06 2013, 09:17AM
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Nina Russo wrote:

Like he won't turn the puck over or make a bad decision on the wing? Why should the centres have to cover his ego? How about Eakins teaches him not to turn the puck over and to play defence, otherwise he can join Omark in OKC.

~ Hall should have no problem clearing waivers. ~

Now back to reality.

Mark Lee, in his sole contribution from last night, indicated JJ was nursing a sore back. Despite all the flu talk, JJ was the reason Hamilton was called up. Tough break.

The Oilers were terrible last night, no question. Frankly, two very key players Hall and Dubnyk appear to be in another time zone and I think I read somewhere that they are missing their top two centres.

Things suck but let's wait more than 2 days before we demote Hall, trade Yak and Eberle, fire the coach and fly in an ECHL goalie from Vegas (in his own space ship, no less). The lack of compete from some guys is concerning no doubt. Lets hope Perron's feistiness, Yak's two shifts where he played pissed off and the fact that Boyd Gordon is on pace for an 82 goal season, give the Oilers something to build on.

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#38 Oiler63
October 06 2013, 09:27AM
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@Fresh Mess

Can't agree more. Accountability has to start at the top level. Lowe messed up the team so badly and what accountability he's got? None! If you want the players to buy in this whole accountability thing, you have to do something real, not just talking.

Two things: Box for Smyth and pink slip for Lowe.

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#41 Walter Sobchak
October 06 2013, 09:53AM
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I'm not pinning this loss solely on Dubnyk, he was bad, but in the first he was the only thing standing in the way of it being 6-1.

Can you imagine if Bryz would have been it net? Brother.

Coming out ill prepared, not motivated, poor line combinations again, no real game plan is on the coaching staff! Period.

The Oilers were spanked by a good team but not a great team, I said it before, if they play like this against Chicago or S.Louis a real ass kicking you will see.

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#42 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
October 06 2013, 10:12AM
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MacTavish and Eakins knew this was coming (Hopkins not being ready to go right away) They've taken this 5 week opportunity and squandered it. They knew a good start was required if they hoped to see considerable progress this season. Now they're probably rushing Hopkins back because of this Gagner situation.

They still look 3 weeks away from sorting out who's who. It's too bad they wasted 3 1/2 weeks of camp with the extra 35 player distraction to deal with.

This 3 weeks is biting them in the arse now. 25th place doesn't look like such a reach now, does it? Is Simone Gagne still looking for work? They have room for a 2-3 million dollar center now.

The cost of conforming with a traditional training camp has come at a price. The game has changed and there was an opportunity for MacT and Eakins to blaze their own new trail last month. Start a new trend, and have other teams to follow the Oilers lead.

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#43 2004Z06
October 06 2013, 10:22AM
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So I guess we need another new coach? Give your head a shake. The team has had 5 coaches in 6 years and the results are the same. Clearly coaching is not the issue. A statement needs to be made to these kids. One of them has to go. No one is safe when you consistently mail in your efforts and refuse to play the coaches system.

Time to be bold!

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#44 Greg the Hammer Valentine
October 06 2013, 10:45AM
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The obstination of MacT to replace RNH and Gagner from within is costing the Oilers prcious points in the standings. It's not too late tough. However, it doesn't matter who plays center if we don't get good goaltending. Is Craig Anderson a UFA after this season?

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#45 madjam
October 06 2013, 10:50AM
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Never to early to start a proper rebuild . This years a start with Nurse . Now is the time to trade a few young stars for center , goalie and another good defenceman . Be bold or fold , as we are doing again this season . Tired of this Hobbitual approach to forming a contender . Hasn't worked - time to start again .

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#46 dawgtoy
October 06 2013, 10:58AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Defending someone's failure - as many posters on this site chronically do -makes you an enabler.

Cubs fans are enablers; Yankee and Red Sox fans are not and have years of winning records as a reward.

Are oilers fans in the cubs mould or the Yankees? I think by and large they are the former, but they may be reaching a breaking point (god I hope so...)

New York Yankees $228,995,945 Boston Red Sox$158,967,286 Chicago Cubs $104,150,726

Really?

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#47 Johe
October 06 2013, 11:05AM
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I really hope the whole team was suffering from dengue fever last night, or something. Brutal effort. Monday has to be better, and I'm guessing it will be. Exponentially.

Put Hall back on wing. No other choice makes sense. There's no way Smyth deserves to be in the top 9 while Arco gets scratched.

Hall Nuge Yakupov

Perron Arco Eberle

Joensuu(if healthy) Gordon Hemsky

Gazdic Acton Brown

And if I'm Eakins, I sit Hall the first couple times his line goes out there. Hall is my favourite player, but he has been atrocious. And it can just be attributed to playing out of position. Every time he touches the puck he gives it away. He's forcing things like I've never seen before. Just throw the puck at the net if you don't have any other option. For all you know, the opposing goalie could pull a Dubnyk.

Eakins needs to challenge Hall and show him who's boss. The same goes for every other player. Wake up!

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#48 Johe
October 06 2013, 11:07AM
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^ CAN'T just be attributed. Sorry

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#49 Harlie
October 06 2013, 11:09AM
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Tar and feather me if you will...but the first one I move of the new kids is J Shultz.

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#50 madjam
October 06 2013, 11:19AM
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2004Z06 wrote:

So I guess we need another new coach? Give your head a shake. The team has had 5 coaches in 6 years and the results are the same. Clearly coaching is not the issue. A statement needs to be made to these kids. One of them has to go. No one is safe when you consistently mail in your efforts and refuse to play the coaches system.

Time to be bold!

The team we got and coaches direction are in conflict . You can't continually bench or not play them and have AHL talent comeup and tryand fill their positions . we know all to well how that turns out over last 7 years . Not easy to get in mass , players to play assertively and aggressively when their nature is more a skilled game . That's the nature of our clubs main components in mass . Get hurt once and they revert back to old ways . I've coached and trying to get someone to play physical in all areas of game does not work in mass unless you have a big squad . It will never be our fortay with present squad . Coach should recognize this and adjust . As an example -use Hemsky who can play in physical game , but is not assertive anywhere but offensive zone . Our young skilled players are much the same . Like Hemsky they will be injury prone as well trying to play that system for any length of time consistently . Wish it were different , but we have yet to see it and injuries starting to mount/rear it's ugly head again .

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